Marcus Smart

Two sources of ‘pain’ influenced Marcus Smart’s decision to return to school


The process of deciding whether or not to return to school for another year can be a tough one, especially when the player making the decision is projected to be a high lottery pick.

That was the case for Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who many expected to be the first guard taken in next Thursday’s NBA Draft had he made the decision to leave Stillwater.

However there were two factors that ultimately led to Smart deciding to return for his sophomore season: an injury to his right wrist and the way in which the Cowboys’ season ended. In a story done by Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News, Smart discussed the NCAA tournament loss to Oregon as well as how tough (and emotional) the decision-making process proved to be.

“It took me a long time. I actually cried about it. It’s a hard decision for an 18-year-old kid, seeing that much money thrown at him, able to turn it down,” Smart told Sporting News. “It’s unthinkable. It’s unheard of. Nobody’s ever done that: a top-five draft pick turning that much money down, guaranteed, to come back to school for another year.”

Smart is one of 12 players selected to play for the United States Under-19 Team, which begins play in the U-19 FIBA World Championships next Thursday against Ivory Coast. The hope for Smart and Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford is that the time spent with USA Basketball will serve as a catalyst for an even better sophomore season.

Smart won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012-13, as he posted averages of 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Oklahoma State finished the season with a 24-9 record (13-5 Big 12), a year that included a Puerto Rico Tip-Off title and the program’s first win at Allen Fieldhouse since 1990. But it’s that 65-53 loss to Oregon that sticks with Smart.

“I just feel like I couldn’t leave them on the note we ended on, losing to Oregon in the round (of 64),” Smart said. “We weren’t playing our best ball at the time. I felt like I didn’t do enough to help my team at the time. I just feel like I left my teammates down.”

What can Smart (and his teammates) do for an encore in 2013-14? Oklahoma State is expected to contend for a Big 12 title along with Kansas (which has won or shared the last nine regular season titles) and Baylor, and the Cowboys certainly have the pieces needed to make good on the preseason expectations.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)